While some companies have online auction sites, the individual seller conducts most online auctions. Auction sites such as eBay require sellers to register, and to pay a fee each time they auction an item. Sellers usually list a reserve price, or minimum bid they are willing to consider, and also set a time limit for bids. Better sellers provide a full description of the item being auctioned, and a photograph, and are willing to respond to any questions about the item. At the end of the bidding period, the person with the highest bid wins the auction. At this point, the seller establishes contact to discuss payment options, shipping, refunds and follow-up service, if any is available.

Auctions work best when both the buyer and the seller fully understand and comply with the rules of the auction site. Doing so helps either party notice if something doesn’t seem quite right. Experienced sellers learn to identify and screen out bogus bids.

Once a buyer places a winning bid, the seller usually specifies payment terms via a third-party payment agency. For items of silent auction ideas substantial value, an escrow service may be used, which holds the buyer’s money until the buyer receives the item and is satisfied with it. Some auction sites provide payment and escrow services.

Unfortunately, online auctions don’t necessarily proceed in a smooth manner or to the satisfaction of the seller and the bidder. The Federal Trade Commission ranks fraud related to online auctions as one of the leading causes of complaints. Fraud may be committed by either the seller or the buyer, and usually involves payment or receipt of items. Online auction fraud should be promptly reported, with as much documentation as possible, to the Better Business Bureau, Federal Trade Commission, local consumer protection agencies and your state attorney general’s office.

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